Have you ever heard the phrase, “be careful what you wish for?” Mm. I have. And I’m pretty confident I’m living it (and I don’t say that bitterly at all).
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)
Some time ago, I learned of myself that I lacked in discipline and self-control. For someone who has OCD and can be a bit of a control freak, it’s shocking to realize that control is something I’m lacking, but it’s control of SELF, not the things or others around me. It’s different.
It didn’t hit me until marriage, truly. My husband is always early for everything. If he’s on time, he considers himself late. Me? If I’m there within 5 minutes of when I said I’d be there, I’m on time. So we’re different that way. But it opened up my eyes to my lack of discipline – and not just in my time, but in other things to, like making sure I’m in the Word every day, defaulting always to prayer, controlling my tongue, etc, etc.
Recognizing this as a fruit of the Spirit, I prayed for this. I wanted, well, yeah I still want to be more devout, more disciplined, more controlled. I want to be poised and at peace despite my circumstances and I know that comes from Jesus. So that’s who I asked for it. But…
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:2-5 NIV)
And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10 NIV)
What do those two scriptures have in common? Well, one, they talk about developing and growing as Christians. But, two, they both say you grow THROUGH SUFFERING.
I asked to grow in self-control. And I’m learning it through suffering.
If any of you lacks (insert “self control”), you should ask God who gives generously…
Postpartum mood disorders are far more common than some would like to admit, but I’m not one of those some. I fully admit that I struggled with depression prior to having kids, and after the birth of my second child just a few months ago, I entered into battle with that in some totally new ways.
Because I don’t just have a baby to take care of this time around, or a home to clean and maintain – I also have a living, breathing, unique little person who still needs me. My daughter is 6 years old, so she’s old enough to know what she needs and how to communicate those needs. She’s old enough to know why she’s upset and how to communicate that why. But she’s not old enough to do so graciously and gently and in the way that I, a struggling, depressed, and obsessive compulsive person myself, would want.
We’ve had some rough days. She was my only child for 6 whole years, and then some. 4 of those years, it was just me and her against the world. She hasn’t had to share even a grandparent with any siblings or cousins until now. Gosh, she’s even the only great-grandchild to her great-grandparents in this state. She’s learning to share and love in a whole new way. And so am I.
And sometimes, we clash and the things that I’ve said, the way that I’ve acted, or the things I’ve thought about saying and thought about doing have been UGLY. They have revealed to me that I don’t just lack self-control in showing up on time or in my daily devotionals. I lack it in some seriously huge and potentially damaging places.
I thank God for grace – His grace, her grace, and my husband’s grace – as we are all learning how to navigate a completely different kind of life. But it occurred to me last night at Bible study as we study through 1 Peter, God just spoke to me that this suffering is to teach me something, to grow me and mold me, and perfect me. I hope it’s teaching my family things too, but for me, this light bulb flicked on in the middle of the night and now I know that this suffering is working in me a spiritual gift that I ASKED for.
I asked to learn self-control and was soon thereafter ushered into a messy season of a hormonal and chemical imbalance with a daughter old enough to reflect my behavior. So I have choices to make, moment to moment, will I chose love and grace and parental discipline when necessary, controlling my words and my actions, and let persevering in that against my feelings that do its work in me? Or will I snap and give my stressed out, emotional, and anxious feelings the wheel when I lose control of my surroundings, and basically steer everything into chaos?
With awareness, I hope more often than not I will choose the former and not the latter.
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1 NLT)
I always come back to this scripture when I think about my role in the home. I don’t want to be a foolish woman, tearing down my husband or my kids. I want to build them up, enable them to be everything God intended for them to be. I don’t want to cause them to sin, like Matthew 18:6, I want to train them up to know and serve the Lord.
Having carefully considered what I’m asking for, I now ask the Lord for wisdom, without taking back my request for self control, trusting that He will give it generously as He is so generously providing me a way to learn self-control. I ask even if I have to suffer a little while to get it, because I know that He will restore what suffer breaks and takes from me, and He will make me strong.
…Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)